Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Study links violence to take-away alcohol

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News, San Diego

Liquor (BBC)

US scientists have shown what they say is a direct link between the number of shops selling alcohol in an area and the violence occurring there.

The study was conducted in Cincinnati and considered all types of outlet, including bars and restaurants.

The more shops selling alcohol in an area, the scientists say, the more assaults were recorded there.

They presented the study at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

Professor William Pridemore from Indiana University, who led the study, spoke at the meeting in San Diego.

He and his colleagues used a mathematical technique to divide the city into blocks. They compared the density of bars, restaurants and shops that sold alcohol with police records of the number of assaults that occurred in each of those blocks.

"The police data are geo-coded," he told BBC News, "so we know in which of those blocks the crimes occurred.

"There was an association between the density of alcohol outlets and the density of assaults."

The strongest association with violence was linked to "off-premise outlets" - shops rather than bars or restaurants where alcohol is consumed on the premises.

He explained that this was likely because there was "more social control" in bars.

"You have management, you have bouncers and you have bystanders who may step in an break up a fight before it gets more serious," he said.

Professor Pridemore suggested that a "pub culture" might help ease the impact that alcohol has on levels of violence and illustrated this by discussing previous research he had carried out in Russia.

"Historically, Russia has no bar or pub culture and I think that's one of the reasons there's such a strong association between alcohol and violence there," he said.

"It's just speculation at this stage, but I think it's because there's so much more drinking at home or in the yards of the apartment blocks. There is very little social control in that setting."

George Tita, associate professor of criminology at the University of Pittsburgh in the US, who was also speaking at the AAAS meeting, said that such mathematical studies were useful for finding out more about the predictable patterns of violence in communities.



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